This is the map I used to describe our intended China itinerary in my brief “Phase III: China” post in early April. What I didn’t mention at the time was how nervous I was about visiting Western China. Pick a concern (food, language, hygiene, transport, possible ethnic violence) and I’m sure I wound myself up in knots worrying about it – without even once considering changing our itinerary. The adrenalin rush that comes from such stresses is why I am a travel junkie.
Point J on the map is Jiayuguan, point K is Turpan, Dunhuang is in between the two. I dithered about whether or not to stop in Dunhuang. The guidebooks raved about beautiful grape arbors in Turpan while Dunhuang seemed to be getting a travel-writer brush-off with descriptions of a “boring, modern city” even as the nearby Mogao Caves were cited as a must-see stop on any Silk Road itinerary. It was all very confusing really. In the end the physical distance facilitated our decision: we could get a daily bus from Jiayuguan to Dunhuang (5hrs) and then continue on with an overnight train journey from Dunhuang to Turpan. Perfect. We made a half-decision to stop in Dunhuang and see if we liked it and if not to continue on.